Russell Terrier

AKC Terrier Group


GRCH Elk Creek Chavelier Snickers. Owned by, bred by, and photo copyright © JoAnn Stoll. All rights reserved.

GRCH Elk Creek Chavelier Snickers. Owned by, bred by, and photo copyright © JoAnn Stoll. All rights reserved.

A descendant of the Rev. John Russell’s early-nineteenth-century fox-working terriers, the Russell Terrier also was bred for fox hunting. Though they look small for such sport, they were actually just the right size to be carried across difficult terrain on horseback (in “terrier bags”). The dog’s sharp nose and loud voice were perfect for finding and then “bolting” the fox.

The breed was further developed in Australia, where it came to be called the Jack Russell Terrier. In America, that same dog is called the Russell Terrier and considered a distinctly different breed than the longer-legged breed called the Jack Russell Terrier or Parson Russell Terrier in the United States.


The Russell Terrier is sturdy, confident, and lively. The overall profile of this breed should be rectangular in proportion, with length slightly greater than height. The skull is flat, with a wide muzzle that narrows slightly to the end. The stop is well defined and the nose needs to be black and fully pigmented. The ears can be V-shaped button, or dropped—both are carried close to the head. The eyes should be dark, almond shaped, and rimmed with black. The Russell Terrier should have an alert expression, a scissors bite, and black lips. The neck should be long enough to let the terrier’s mouth extend beyond its forepaws when working.

The forelegs are straight and moderately well boned. The loins are short and muscular. The top line stays level while in motion. The chest is small, oval shaped, and compressible to allow the dog to work below ground. The hindquarters are strong. All four feet should be moderately sized, oval shaped, and hard padded, with toes that are moderately arched. The tail is set high enough so the spine does not slope down to the base of the tail. Movement should appear effortless and confident.

The coat can be smooth (dense, short, smooth hair), broken (intermediate-length hair, usually with facial furnishings and a slight ridge down spine), or rough (harsh, dense hair), but always has an undercoat and harsher outer coat for weather proofing. Any variation of tan and/or black markings (against a white background) is acceptable; brindle is not.

Key Facts

  • Height:  10 to 12 in.
  • Size:  Small
  • Weight:  11 to 13 lbs.
  • Availability:  Difficult to find
  • Talents:  Hunting, rally, agility, service, tracking, obedience, search and rescue, tricks, and lure coursing


Tail docking optional. Scars and broken or missing teeth from hunting aren’t penalized. The Russell Terrier is shown in its natural coat, with minimal grooming. “Miniature” Russell Terriers—also called “Irish Shorties,” “puddin’s,” and “short ones”—don’t meet the standard and might be the result of dwarfism, a genetic fault linked to canine diseases. This breed is prone to primary lens luxation, cataracts, and luxating patella.


These are alert, active, intelligent little dogs who love to hunt, play, and have adventures— emphasis on “hunt.” Though small and cute, they are not primarily companion dogs. Instead they still are bred to be working earth terriers used for controlling vermin such as fox, groundhogs, rats, and other earth-burrowing animals. Due to their intense personalities, they need exercise, mental stimulation, adventures, and an opportunity to be outside, but they love their families with a passion. While they are good with dogs of other breeds, they tend to scrap with Russell Terriers of their own gender.


  • Children:  Best with older, considerate children
  • Friendliness:  Fairly friendly with strangers
  • Trainability:  Very easy to train
  • Independence:  Moderately dependent on people
  • Dominance:  Moderate (not particularly dominant or submissive)
  • Other Pets:  Good with other pets if raised with them from puppyhood
  • Combativeness:  Can be a bit dog-aggressive
  • Noise:  Likes to bark
  • Indoors:  Moderately active indoors
  • Owner:  Good for novice owners


  • Grooming:  A little grooming needed.
  • Trimming and Stripping:  Some trimming or stripping of the coat needed (little skill required)(Rough and Broken coats); no trimming or stripping needed (Smooth coat)
  • Coat:  Short, medium
  • Shedding:  Constant shedder
  • Docking/Cropping:  Tails
  • Exercise:  Needs lots of exercise
  • Jogging:  A good jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Will be okay in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space:  Best with at least an average-size yard
  • Climate:  Does well in most climates
  • Longevity:  12 to 15 years

Useful Links

AKC® Russell Terrier Breed Standard

Russell Terrier Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

No rescue contact found.

Books about the Russell Terrier

Russell Terrier Gifts